KW’s ‘SHOW-HOW’ LEADER

Nick Zografos unquestionably is a special athlete. But at no point during the senior’s four years at Kentwood High did he consider simply specializing in one sport.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Wednesday, June 11, 2008 12:00am
  • Sports
Kentwood’s Nick Zografos is part of a rare breed these days: a three-sport standout. Zografos will graduate from Kentwood with 10 varsity letters in his prep career. This past school year

Kentwood’s Nick Zografos is part of a rare breed these days: a three-sport standout. Zografos will graduate from Kentwood with 10 varsity letters in his prep career. This past school year

Nick Zografos unquestionably is a special athlete. But at no point during the senior’s four years at Kentwood High did he consider simply specializing in one sport.

It’s simply not his style.

“It was tough because the coaches in each sport really liked me, so I didn’t feel I could drop any sport,” admitted Zografos, who finished up his prep career with 10 varsity letters – three in baseball and football, and four in wrestling. “I felt like I had to be there.

“I liked doing it.”

So much, in fact, that through the years, Zografos’ grind-it-out nature has helped him blossom into the type of athletic dynamo that seems to becoming more rare with each passing year: a three-sport standout.

While not the undeniable star on any of his teams, Zografos certainly was plenty good in football, wrestling and baseball, earning postseason accolades in each. And because of that, Zografos has been named The Reporter’s Covington/Maple Valley Male Athlete of the Year.

“Since Luke (Hetherington, a 2001 graduate), I don’t remember a three-sport athlete at Kentwood. A lot of kids nowadays are just specializing in one sport,” said wrestling coach Ken Sroka. “Nick’s a very good all-around athlete.”

Indeed.

Last fall, Zografos helped the Conquerors to their eighth football playoff berth in the last nine years, ranking second on the team with 64 tackles. In the process, he earned second-team All-SPSL North Division accolades.

“He was a big hitter for us,” Kentwood football coach Rex Norris said. “He played much bigger than he was.”

That was evident in Kentwood’s 21-20 loss to Tahoma on Oct. 19, when the 6-foot, 170-pound Zografos registered a team-high 15 tackles.

During the winter, Zografos delivered plenty of big hits — along with pins and takedowns — on the wrestling mat, where he was one of the key cogs in helping the Conquerors win a second straight SPSL North crown.

A gritty and tough 152-pounder, Zografos was all about winning on the mat, securing league and regional crowns before succumbing to a black eye at state and taking sixth.

It was a bittersweet finish to a near flawless wrestling season for Zografos, the type of gutsy competitor who always seemed to exceed even the loftiest of expectations.

The 18-year-old cruised into the state semifinals and was considered among the title contenders at Mat Classic XX in the Tacoma Dome until taking a headbutt to the eye during his bout against Kyle Foster of Puyallup’s Rogers High.

“That was probably the toughest moment in my high school sports career,” Zografos admitted, “because I had it. Foster had beaten me twice during the season and everything I was doing in practice was geared toward beating him. Whoever wanted it more was going to the finals. But getting that headbutt to the eye took it out of me. It freaked me out.”

Despite having an eye that was nearly swollen shut, Zografos didn’t give in, taking sixth at state and finishing with a 36-7 overall record. Along the way, he moved into second place all-time on Kentwood’s takedown list with 157.

“He was going to win that match if his eye didn’t get swollen shut,” Sroka insisted. “I’d put him on my wrestling mat against any guy any day.”

Zografos’ eye injury apparently was just fine by the time baseball season came.

A center fielder who covers ground with the best of ‘em, Zografos went on to lead the Conquerors in hitting with a sweltering .405 batting average and earned second-team All-SPSL North honors.

“Nick is definitely a show-how leader,” Kentwood baseball coach Jon Aarstad said. “He got everything he could out of what he has.”

But he isn’t done yet.

Holding true to his never give-up, never give-in nature, Zografos will try and walk on to the baseball team at Washington State University in the fall.

“No coach wants me to come out and play, but I am going to walk onto the baseball team and see what happens,” said Zografos, who sports a 3.1 cumulative grade point average. “I’d have to say my primary sport was wrestling, but it has really died out in Washington, especially in the Pac-10. I think wrestling actually was my best sport, but I didn’t want to pursue it … I feel like actually have a chance to play (baseball) at Washington State.”

And so, after all this time, Zografos is finally whittling it down to just one sport.

But don’t think for a moment, the multi-talented Kentwood senior won’t miss the others.

“I’ve been wrestling ever since I was really little, 4 years old. Baseball was the same,” he said. “I played soccer until sixth grade and in junior high, I wanted to play football.

“I just loved all the sports and couldn’t get enough of them.”

Which is exactly the kind of athlete seldom seen these days.

BIG PLAYERS, BIG PERFORMANCES

Kentwood’s Nick Zografos proved this year to be a rare breed: the three-sport standout. There weren’t many of them among the boys this prep season. Zografos’ all-out athletic assault helped him capture The Reporter’s Male Athlete of the Year honors.

But there were plenty of other big-time performances from some big-time athletes.

Below is a look at a handful of male athletes from our three local schools (Kentwood, Kentlake and Tahoma) who were in the running for The Reporter’s Male Athlete of the Year award.

NICK BAYER, TAHOMA

Talk about a smooth operator. None were smoother, calmer or downright more pleasant to talk with than Tahoma wrestler Nick Bayer.

And without question, when it comes to the wrestling mat, no one was better.

Bayer ripped through his first three matches of Mat Classic XX, pinning his first opponent before working over his next two, 10-4 and 8-1.

Then the level-headed sophomore ran into a bit of a roadblock in the championship match against Graham-Kapowsin’s Tyler Story. Down 6-4 with 28 seconds remaining, Bayer methodically worked a one-point escape before finishing the season in style, notching a title-winning takedown with 1.8 seconds left on the clock.

Bayer finished the year with a 37-5 overall record.

DEMITRIUS BRONSON, KENTWOOD

In a program that seems to churn out elite-level running backs every year, Bronson has been the man at Kentwood for four seasons.

The University of Washington-bound senior continued to drop jaws this past fall, rushing for 1,450 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games. Those numbers become even more impressive when considering that Bronson missed 2 1/2 games with an ankle injury.

No doubt, when Bronson played, Bronson delivered. Matter of fact, he scored at least once in every game he suited up, eclipsed the 200-yard mark three times and finished his prep career with a Kentwood-best 3,569 yards rushing, breaking the previous mark established by John Gardenhire.

ZACK SMITH, KENTLAKE

Smith is no stranger to the highest level of track and field.

A year-round competitor, his name is well known. But at the state level, Smith’s name hadn’t reached elite status until last month.

A junior, Smith missed most of the last two years after a lower-back injury injury his freshman season. Any thoughts that the Kentlake junior wasn’t yet at 100 percent were put to rest last month during the Star Track state meet in Pasco, where Smith captured the long jump crown with a lifetime-best leap of 23 feet, 3 inches.

The title was the first ever for track and field in Kentlake’s 11-year history.

CHRIS MARANGON, TAHOMA

Marangon picked up where former Tahoma star David Bentrott left off last spring.

A versatile athlete on the football field and baseball diamond, Marangon excelled in both.

In football, he became the Bears’ go-to receiver, pulling in 14 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Marangon also was a first-team defensive back and an all-league kick and punt returner.

The junior stepped it up a notch on the baseball diamond, helping the Bears earn a third straight state berth and a share of the SPSL North Division crown.

An honorable mention outfielder and second-team pitcher, Marangon went 2-1 with 25 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings pitched on the mound during league play, hit .350 and drove in a team-leading 19 runs.

MAX MANTHOU, KENTWOOD

This powerful-swinging sophomore is now halfway to his goal of winning four Class 4A state boys singles titles. Manthou, already with back-to-back division, league and district crowns, notched No. 2 on the state scene when he defeated Juanita’s James Russell in the final at the Vancouver Tennis Center, 6-2, 6-4. There’s every chance those two could meet again next spring, as Russell is a junior.

JONOTHAN LAFLER, TAHOMA

The Bears senior has spent the last four years going the distance to make a statewide impact. Lafler finished fourth in the Class 4A state cross country meet last fall, helping Tahoma take home the third-place team trophy. This spring, Lafler ran to a silver medal in the 3,200 meters at the Star Track state meet, logging a 9:18.61. That helped ease his disappointment from the 1,600, when a hamstring that tightened up on him slowed him considerably, leaving him back in 16th.


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